I don’t like clutter: things scattered haphazardly on any available surface, all inviting tiny molecules of dust to settle on them, all moving of their own accord to look out of alignment and to crowd together in a state of general untidiness.
On Thursday morning last week, Tim and I arrived back in the state with a car bursting with … well, it’s not the technical term but I’m going to call it “stuff”. The man at the quarantine check in Devonport had been mightily impressed with my packing skills, saying that he’d never seen a vehicle so well-packed. If a car could be said to be stuffed full – our car was it.
Tim had to go back to work that morning and I had to collect a hire car to drive for a little over two hours to do a school visit. Our car stayed stuffed.
On Friday morning Tim headed back to work and I only had an hour’s drive to visit another school, so I spent half an hour unpacking the car.
A full thirty minutes and there was barely a dent in the stuff still packed in the car. In fact, Tim walked past it that afternoon and didn’t even notice that the car was no longer bursting.
But when I walked into the lounge room, I could tell. Stuff everywhere. Bags of unidentified belongings, pillows, doonas, blankets, sheets, photos, canvases, others’ art works we’ve gathered over the years, trinkets, clothes, old school reports, information kits of one kind or another (do you reckon it’s too late to do the bowel test I got a kit for two years ago?) … even a bag of coat hangers. All dumped in the lounge room, and the hallway, and the bathroom, and our bedroom, and the guest room and my study. Oh, and the kitchen.
And look, even in the laundry. How could one car hold so much?
It reminded me of what my house used to look like when I was the mother of four young children. Stuff everywhere. No semblance of order. No rhyme or reason why any of it was where it was – it just was. And it was mostly covered in dried weetbix or porridge …
When we lived in Queensland, the neighbour’s little boy once told his mother that he really liked my car … because it had everything you could ever want in it! A very polite way of saying it was a mess.
And that’s what the house looked like on Friday morning. And it looked exactly the same on Friday evening when I returned from the school I’d visited. Tim arrived home from work, had a spurt of energy and finished unloading the car. There was barely enough floor, couch, table, bed, desk space for it all. We cleared a space on the couch to sit, and did our best to ignore it all. It oozed untidiness from every corner.
On Saturday morning, despite the prospect of a four hour drive north, I was up at 5am putting the bathroom in order. You can only imagine the strong sense of satisfaction I felt when everything fitted in the cupboard in an orderly way!
Out of the safe (i.e. tidy) confines of the bathroom, I felt burdened by the piles and piles and piles of things. What is all this stuff? Where did it come from? Had the neighbours added to it while I wasn’t looking? And where was it all going to go? We’d thought the house was already full, but now we had to find extra places for the litter of possessions covering every surface.
Now that I no longer have little children, I like things neat. Well-ordered. Straight. A bed that’s made makes for a much neater room than an unmade bed; a kitchen bench that’s unencumbered with every utensil known to humankind is a delight to behold; a lounge room floor that is not a trip hazard makes me a happy girl. Pencils lying on a desk look better when they’re straight. A box of tissues on the fridge looks neater when it’s straight. A pile of mail on the table … you get the idea.
And so to Sunday morning. De-clutter day. What a great day! By Sunday afternoon we had bags and bags (and bags) of things we didn’t want, ready to take to an op shop; we had bags and bags of rubbish (why did we keep that and that or … goodness, what is that?) and best of all we had beautifully organised cupboards and drawers.
And yes, just in case you’re wondering, my sock drawer has straight rows of socks. If I was home I’d take a picture – it really looks that good!
Even my mother, the queen of unclutter, would be impressed.
Just don’t open that cupboard Mum!